Thursday, June 22, 2017
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Birding at the Barrier Dam on the Cowlitz River

You don’t have to step one foot in the water or even bring your fishing rod to enjoy the Barrier Dam area of the Cowlitz River, where fishing is often an entertaining spectator sport. There is also a great variety of interesting birds to watch: Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, American Dippers, gulls and other LBJs (little brown jobs) are commonly seen picking fish carcasses clean, plucking small fish from the river, or picking up scattered eggs.

On Tuesday I watched as a flock of Canadian Geese flew upstream on the river and then made “whiffling” maneuvers to quickly lower their speed and altitude over the water and make a quick drop into the river behind the hatchery. When a goose “whiffles” he keeps his head steady and quickly twists his body to 90- to 180-degrees.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

American Crows.

American Crows.

American Dipper.

American Dipper.

An unhappy young gull takes a bites his rescuer, Ken Twibell of Tacoma, as he untangles the bird from the fishing line wrapped around his wings. The bird was caught on a cast (by me) and plucked from the air and had to suffer the indignity of getting reeled in to shore. Both the gull and his rescuer are fine.

An unhappy young gull takes a bites his rescuer, Ken Twibell of Tacoma, as he untangles the bird from the fishing line wrapped around his wings. The bird was caught on a cast (by me) and plucked from the air and had to suffer the indignity of getting reeled in to shore. Both the gull and his rescuer are fine.

Common Mergansers.

Common Mergansers.

Canadian Geese.

Canada Geese.

This bathing beauty is a Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

There are also plenty of fish to be seen on fine late summer days:

Tyler Wallace, Mossyrock, hoists up a hefty 15-pound Chinook hen that he coaxed out of the pool at the Barrier Dam last Friday evening using a great glob of eggs. Anglers have been complaining that they haven't been seeing the fish they were hoping for as they ply the waters of the Cowlitz River, "but you've just got to put in the time," said Wallace.

Tyler Wallace, Mossyrock, hoists up a hefty 15-pound Chinook hen that he coaxed out of the pool at the Barrier Dam last Friday year using a great glob of eggs.

Ken Link, Tenino, pulled this bright steelhead from the Cowlitz River at Barrier Dam at noon on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Ken Link, Tenino, pulled this bright steelhead from the Cowlitz River at Barrier Dam last summer.

About Kimberly Mason

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer, photojournalist, and web designer. When she's not out chasing a story, you'll find her at work in one her three main offices — her big backyard, the Cowlitz River, or the recliner in her living room. She has four grown children, three grandchildren, and is owned by a Labrador retriever, Buddy the WonderDog.

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